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The Role of "Accompanying Research" Within Initiatives for VET Development – Reflections on National and European Developments

Pekka Kämäräinen


Paper Presented at the European Conference on Educational Research, Lahti, Finland 22 - 25 September 1999

Background and Aim of the Document

The following discussion paper aims to stimulate reflection on different uses of "accompanying research" in the context of European policies for promoting innovations that are related to the domain of vocational education and training (VET) (both at national and European level). At the same time the document raises questions concerning the acceptability and validity of accompanying research as a methodology for scientific research on the development of VET. The document is an attempt to give a more systematic treatment on the theme that was touched upon in the CEDEFOP-initiated symposium at the ECER-conference 1996 in Sevilla. However, in the current situation it takes into account the transition to a new generation of European cooperation programmes. Moreover, it takes into account the new challenges concerning ‘valorisation’ and ‘capitalisation of the outcomes’ of European cooperation.

The first main section introduces the concepts ‘accompanying research’ and ‘research-based accompaniment’. It gives a general interpretation why certain research cultures have introduced such research designs in the context innovation promotion programmes.

The second main section presents some examples that illustrate the potentials of accompanying research (and the current limits for using accompanying research) in the context of European cooperation programmes. It discusses also some alternative ways to develop methodologies that draw upon methodological principles that are similar to those of ‘accompanying research’.

The third main section raises some questions concerning the future of accompanying research at European level. It also discusses the role of CEDEFOP in developing European patterns to make use of accompanying research both from the perspective of programme development and from the perspective of research culture.

What Is Accompanying Research and Why Is It Needed?

The Concept of ‘Accompanying Research’ in a Group Picture

In general terms the notion ‘accompanying research’ refers to a policy-context or to a programme context in which reform activities, experimental programmes or innovatory initiatives are supported by a related research project. In the following document the notion accompanying research is used as characterisation of such research work itself. It refers often to single projects and individual case studies. Consequently, the notion ‘research-based accompaniment’ is a more generalised expression which characterises the role of accompanying research projects in the programme or accompanying measures that cover a broader range of innovatory activities. In order to clarify the methodological issues that are specific to accompanying research, it is necessary to make a distinction between the concept and some closely related concepts, in particular ‘evaluation research’, ‘implementation research’, ‘process consultancy’ ‘action research’:

‘Evaluation research’ refers to a research design that is mainly focused on the outcomes of the processes and tries to find out whether given policy goals have been attained.

‘Implementation research’ refers to a research design that is mainly focused on the mode of implementation and tries to find out whether given policy guidelines are adequately put into practice.

‘Process consultancy’ refers to uses of external experts as a support for the practical development measures. Process consultants are primarily committed to support their particular clients and are not necessarily contributing to systematic knowledge accumulation within an established research culture.

‘Action research’ is a broader epistemological concept that refers to all kinds of research designs in which research is participating in processes of social change and makes systematic use of participation as means of inquiry. ‘Action research’ projects are not necessarily linked in as programme-related measures to particular reform frameworks or to particular frameworks for innovation promotion.

As a contrast to previous ‘pure types’ one can consider that ‘accompanying research’ projects have both evaluative and consultative functions. Moreover, particular project designs may put more emphasis on monitoring the implementation of pre-given policy guidelines or put the main emphasis on supporting decentralised initiatives that may provide a basis for new kinds of policy frameworks. The main characteristic of accompanying research is its mediating function between policy contexts (or programme frameworks) and development measures (or particular pilot projects).

Uses of Accompanying Research

The starting point for introducing accompanying research (or research-based accompaniment) is a need to promote innovations (in VET or in other related contexts) with such initiatives, pilot projects or experimental schemes that cannot be steered with accustomed control knowledge and with accustomed distribution of roles between policy-makers and educational actors.

The need for research-based documentation, monitoring and evaluation (from the perspective of policy development) arises from the fact that local and regional actors are empowered to launch development processes that are developing new educational concepts and new social organisations for innovatory practices. Therefore, using evaluation research or implementation research designs as tools for monitoring would not have provide an insight in the decentralised management of innovatory processes.

However, such innovatory initiatives are often relying on interplay between public support for certain pilot activities, organisational changes in the organisations involved and uses of external facilitators. Thus, there is a particular need get an insight in the ‘making’ of the process knowledge with which the organisations that are involved will gradually gain a mastery of the transition processes and find a ‘mature’ mode of operation.

Therefore, there is apparently an in-built contradiction in the very mission of accompanying research.

Accompanying research becomes much more relevant as a tool for monitoring if it extends its activities beyond the immediate monitoring needs. If accompanying research projects only provide descriptive information on the different phases of the development process and of particular outcomes of development work, they actually fail to give insights in the criteria for transferability.

However, if accompanying research tries to conceptualise both the innovatory approach and the making of the concept, it provides material for continuing professional development of reflective practitioners. By doing this, accompanying research can contribute shared learning processes and to a generation of a ‘community of practice’ that provides a generalised basis for innovation transfer.

Although accompanying research or research-based accompaniment provide certain advantages for monitoring of innovation policies and in supporting modern (decentralised) training management, the practice of such measures are not widespread - in particular in the domain of VET development. This can be related to several possible explanations:

The ‘added value’ of accompanying research becomes transparent only when the pattern is introduced on a broader base (critical mass) and it starts to provide a foundation for a new particular kind of knowledge accumulation. This requires overarching frameworks for innovation promotion and for drawing conclusions. However, in more decentralised modes of innovation promotion accompanying research is usually replaced by process consultancy and separate evaluation studies.

The scientific status of accompanying research has not been properly clarified - not even in the research cultures with a longer experience with uses of such patterns. The complexity of such projects leads to multiple demands concerning the participation of accompanying research. Although most of the ‘additional’ tasks contribute to the competence development of researchers, they are not necessarily considered as scientific merits. Moreover, accompanying research is carried out by researchers with different scientific backgrounds and the interdisciplinary character of the research tasks doesn’t immediately contribute to the established research traditions of academic disciplines. This is aggravated by the fact that only very few national research cultures provide a specific research discipline for the domain of VET (e.g. the German Berufspädagogik). Even in such cases the methodological reflection of accompanying research has hardly progressed from initial steps. Thus, there are no general criteria for the scientific acceptability and validity of accompanying research.

Another set of problems arises from the needs and possibilities to use accompanying research at the level of European cooperation. Given the diversity of research and development cultures, there is no common tradition for European pilot projects with a directly linked European accompanying research. In other kinds of European research partnerships one can find ‘compensatory solutions’ which are based on:

capitalisation of the outcomes accompanying research (of particular pilot projects at national level) that are presented as national inputs to European projects;

research-based accompaniment of national policy developments (without focusing in detail on particular pilot projects);

approximation of methodologies of accompanying research in feasibility studies which may provide a basis for further research and development initiatives;

creation of ‘project environments’ which could provide starting points for successor initiatives which could include piloting with accompanying research.

This document doesn’t aim to raise a discussion on accompanying research on the level of pure meta-reflection on possible research methodologies that could meet hitherto neglected research needs. On the contrary- the aim is to draw attention on existing patterns and their methodological foundations. Moreover, the aim is to draw attention to develop further similar ideas in research contexts within which full-scale accompanying research activities would not be feasible.

Excursion: Developments Towards Enhancing the Scientific and, Methodological and Political Status of Accompanying Research in the German Research Culture

The question of enhancing the scientific, methodological and political status of accompanying research can be related to three developments in the German research (and development) culture in the domain of VET:

the emergence of Pedagogics of VET (Berufspädagogik) as an academic discipline;

the emergence of a debate on the scientific and political validity of accompanying research;

the emergence of new frameworks for programme development and programme-related research in the domain of VET.

A Concerning the Emergence of Pedagogics of VET as an Academic Discipline

In general terms, the emergence of Pedagogics of VET as a research discipline provided a framework that could accommodate the emerging research potential that was growing within accompanying research. Yet, the resources of the young discipline were primarily engaged in consolidating the patterns of academic teaching, learning, supervision of related studies and production of relevant textbooks. Therefore, research activities could only be developed as peripheral activities which were dependent on external contracts. This has led to a discontinuity in the related research institutes or research groups and to a relatively slow consolidation of a specific research culture within the frameworks of Pedagogics of VET.

B Concerning the Emergence of a Debate on the Scientific and Political Validity of Accompanying Research

The fact that upgrading of Pedagogics of VET has not led to a consolidation of a strong research culture with clearly profiled research approaches has had several consequences. In the given context it has been obvious that the tasks of accompanying research have been shared by a broader range of researchers and research approaches within the domain of VET research. Some of these have been co-opted from neighbouring disciplines to contribute to the development of Pedagogics of VET. However, most of the approaches have maintained an interdisciplinary profile under the auspices of a joint umbrella concept VET research (Berufsbildungsforschung). Consequently, the debates that have been launched on the scientific and political validity of accompanying research have been raised in the context of VET research without making reference to Pedagogics of VET or to other particular disciplines.

These reflections have paid attention on the intermediate role of accompanying research between the following poles:

process documentation and process-related feedback

process consultancy and evaluation of the outcomes

support for bringing practical development measures into concept and carrying out research with scientific standards.

In this sense there has been an effort to define some common quality criteria which are characteristic of accompanying research due to its intermediate role:

transparency of the research approach in the context of process documentation;

sensitivity towards the particular needs in the field of piloting (and towards the needs of the key actors);

communicative validation of the research findings (in order to ensure they can be interpreted adequately by diverse actors of the model/pilot scheme);

triangulation (consequent search for alternative solutions and assessment of proposed solutions in view of alternative options).

Given the fact that such debates on common quality criteria have been launched under umbrella frameworks (and in the context of certain ad hoc events), they have not led to a methodological consolidation of a ‘community of practice’ within VET research.

Reflections on Uses of "Accompanying Research" Within European VET Research

As has been indicated, patterns of accompanying research - in the very way they have been put into practice at the national level - cannot be used as such at the level of European cooperation programmes. It is obvious that at the level of European cooperation the growth of complexity requires other patterns to link pilot projects and research-based accompaniment. Therefore, it is not the aim of this document to raise the issue of transferability of the model of accompanying research in the context of particular European pilot projects.

It is more appropriate to raise questions concerning different (alternative) uses of accompanying research and similar methodologies in the context of European research projects (including the `research component` of the action programme Leonardo da Vinci). In this context the questions to be raise will focus on

uses of accompanying research projects as national sources and national contributors in European projects;

uses of accompanying research approaches or similar methodologies as means to observe policy developments at Member states;

models for linking `research agendas` with `development agendas` in European projects;

models for using `programme-related research` as means for promoting knowledge accumulation and knowledge transfer at European level.

In this sense it is relevant to analyse some experiences with European cooperation projects which provide examples for uses of accompanying research and/or which can be interpreted as approximating methodologies of accompanying research. As such cases it is useful to reflect the Leonardo projects "Post-16 Strategies" and "Intequal". Equally, there is a need to analyse project designs that combine a `research agenda` with a `development agenda` - at least at the level of feasibility study. As such case it is relevant to discuss the case of Europrof. In all these cases there is also a need to reflect what kind of further project development could be anticipated with a consequent use of accompanying research methodologies.

However, it is not enough to discuss uses of accompanying research methodologies in the context of particular European projects or `project families`. It is equally important to raise questions concerning the kind of knowledge processing that has taken place in the examples on programme-related research - both in the transfer-promoting sense (see the examples of research on social innovations in working-life) and in the programme-reflecting sense (see the examples on the German VET-related programme frameworks). At the European level these issues can be raised at the level of programme development (in order to make room for research-based accompaniment by shaping the frameworks) or at the level of programme implementation (in order to build upon existing project environments and to make use of accompanying research in the next project generation).

The Role of "Accompanying Research" in the Leonardo Projects "Post-16 Strategies" and "Intequal"

The two linked Leonardo projects "Post-16 Strategies" and "Intequal" can be analysed as examples of uses of accompanying research from the following perspectives:

Both projects were built upon national contributions, some of which had the character of accompanying research or implementation research (whereas others were approximating that character). In this respect the projects provide examples for European capitalisation of accompanying research (at the national level).

In both cases the methodological awareness of accompanying research remained implicit during the active project period (and during the subsequent transition to the multiplier-projects). In this respect both projects (as such) provide examples of implicit uses of accompanying research.

In both cases the project design provided a basis for European (research-based) accompaniment of certain policy development tendencies and/or related initiatives in curriculum development. In this respect the projects provide examples of different kind of approximation of methodologies for accompanying research.

The collaboration of the two projects generated a joint project environment with a rich heritage of issues to be followed up by contrasting the contributions of the two projects with each other. In this respect the project environment provides a promising starting point for further development of generative themes for studies that can be based on methodologies for accompanying research.

Without going into detail in project histories it is possible to make some methodological remarks on the diverse aspects that have been raised above:

Concerning European Capitalisation of the Outcomes of National Accompanying Research Projects

The basic function of all accompanying research projects is to contribute to experimental pilot initiatives that are launched in open and dynamic experimental situations in which

general policy frameworks are being reconsidered and in which

pilot initiatives are expected to contribute to the reshaping of the new frameworks.

Thus, accompanying research is expected to establish a dialogue and a reflection between the policy-revision and the active experimentation in the context of particular initiatives.

Basic difficulty was that in most of the countries that were involved, the studies could not necessary focus on such open, dynamic experimental situations that would link both policy orientations (the focus of Post-16 Strategies) and development of curricular characteristics of particular schemes (the focus of Intequal). Therefore, the projects had to find their ways to make different national cases comparable to each other. In the case of Post-16 Strategies different strategic phases of reform debates and/or reform processes were taken into consideration. In the case of Intequal different initiatives were made comparable as implemented schemes without focusing on policy contexts and/or reform processes.

Thus, different basic situations were made ‘equal’ as starting points for the particular studies. However, due to such ‘equalisation’ the projects could not pay special attention to such open, dynamic and experimental situations in which accompanying research can contribute to policy-revision and to policy development via reporting from particular innovatory pilot projects. The two projects reported from different poles (strategies vs. schemes) of such processes of change without raising questions on participation of research in (national) policy development.

Concerning Methodological Awareness of the Potentials of Accompanying Research

Neither of the projects had a possibility to discuss explicitly the methodological implications of a research-based accompaniment of open, dynamic, experimental situations. Therefore, there was a considerable pattern variance in reporting on the national contexts and in participation in the collaborative discussion.

This has major consequences for uses of methodologies of accompanying research, in particular for the aspect that has been called ‘triangulation’ (consequent search and feedback on alternative options in open development situations). Due to an underlying diversity in the accepted role-models for research (at the national level) it is not self-evident to what extent it is legitimate to proceed towards developing a pattern of triangulation in the context of a European cooperation project (or within transnational subgroups). This is particularly the case if the characteristics of open, dynamic experimental situation were not shared in the national research contexts. Therefore, the projects could provide only sporadic examples of uses of ‘triangulation’ (e.g. the reflections on synoptic assessment in Intequal). Thus, the relevance of methodologies of accompanying research for the said projects can only be made transparent via reflections on the outcomes completed projects and on the experiences of the respective project histories.

Concerning Methodological Approximation of Accompanying Research

Given the reservations that have been presented above, it is necessary to note that the projects developed several features of common research culture that can be interpreted as an approximation of accompanying research methodologies. As such features it is possible to mention

the tools that the projects developed for clustering and relating the national contributions and for analysing their essential characteristics in a European group picture;

particular processes of collaborative framework development, collaborative development of mapping instruments and collaborative reflection on lessons for mutual learning.

However, at present these tools and patterns of collaborative research have served an interpretative interest of knowledge – identification and mapping of strategies and schemes. In a further step of methodological reflection they can be linked to ‘tools development’ and ‘development of research culture’ for accompanying research at European level.

This is particularly the case with the aspect of "triangulation". In further methodological development the frameworks can provide a basis for mapping of strategy characteristics, process characteristics and features pedagogic/curricular initiatives for a systematic use of "triangulation" and of other accompanying research methodologies in the context of European (transnational) projects.

Concerning the Heritage of the Common Project Environment

It has already been indicated that the projects created mutual exchanges that gradually led to an awareness of a common project environment (with a given division of labour). It has also been indicated that the project environment raises certain issues that cannot be sufficiently answered without making uses of the outcomes of both projects. These issues can be related to certain cultural barriers that were encountered in the primary projects (e.g. the difficulties to reach common ground on the theme "integrated learning" and to make transparent different views.

Such issues can also be related to possible evolution and mutual learning of the strategies (further development of the theme of the Post-16 Strategies) and to crossing the pedagogic and curricular barriers that separated different schemes (further development of the theme of Intequal). Such generative themes would require a research context that would be open, dynamic and experimental for the contribution of accompanying research. If this could not be reached via accompaniment of real processes, there is a possibility to develop scenarios for open futures (that have not yet reached the phase of mature policy debates and pedagogic/curricular initiatives).

The Role of "Accompanying Research" Within the Europrof Project

Compared with the two linked Leonardo projects on ‘parity of esteem’ (Post-16 Strategies and Intequal), the Europrof project (on new education for European VET professionals) presents a clearly different example for possibilities to utilise accompanying research methodologies in the context of European cooperation. The main differences can be summarised in the following way:

The two linked projects on ‘parity of esteem’ were primarily capitalising the outcomes of ongoing or completed national projects whereas the Europrof was a feasibility study that provided a basis for subsequent research and development activities at the national and European level.

The two linked projects positioned themselves clearly as ‘research’ projects with research-oriented objectives and with a respective mode of work whereas the Europrof project had a ‘research agenda’ and a ‘development agenda’ that were essentially linked to each other.

The two linked projects addressed two different phases of VET development (development of strategies vs. implemented schemes) whereas the Europrof project focused on the role of VET professionals as change agents and (respectively) on the education of VET professionals.

The two linked projects addressed different institutional contexts of VET development (strategic development at national level vs. implementation of schemes in particular contexts). As a contrast, the Europrof project combined an institutional agenda (creating institutional frameworks for education of new VET professionals and for a related research culture) and a field-oriented agenda (support for the development of ‘communities of practice’ as vehicles for professionalisation).

Given these basic differences, the questions concerning the relevance of accompanying research methodologies in the context of Europrof have to be discussed from a different perspective (from that of a feasibility study) and with a different expectation concerning subsequent follow-up measures.

Concerning the Relevance of Accompanying Research Methodologies for a Feasibility Study

For the two linked projects (which were based on a capitalisation of the outcomes of national projects) the basic question was whether the (European) project design could be built upon open, dynamic experimental situations (at the national level) and on their scientific accompaniment. For the Europrof project the starting point was characterised by a deficit analysis concerning the current standing of VET-related expertise and concerning the pre-existing models for (basic) education and (continuing) training of VET professionals. Thus, the project saw as its mission to create an awareness of shortcomings in the current patterns of educating VET professionals and in using (or not using) VET-related expertise. Consequently, the work of the project focused on

producing national studies on current models for education of VET professionals and on related contradictions or deficits from the perspective of professionalisation of VET-related expertise;

collecting thematic evidence on the new needs for VET- and HRD-related expertise and on the potential interfaces between the said domains of expertise;

developing a common understanding on conceptual and curricular core principles for the development of frameworks for a new education for European VET professionals;

creating an awareness of the potential facilitating role of research for such initiatives and an awareness of the need to support such initiatives by integrating the a specific research culture into the educational and curricular initiatives.

Thus, the project was not in the position to get directly linked to open, dynamic experimental situations or to launch direct preparatory measures. Instead, the active phase of the Europrof project can be characterised as preparing the grounds for the particular agendas that arise from the first phase of the project. Consequently, the possibility to utilise accompanying research methodologies is related to the subsequent phases of the project evolution.

Concerning Methodological Awareness of the Potentials of Accompanying Research

Given the initial phase of the work and the preparatory character of the feasibility studies and of the related reflections, the project itself was not in the position to raise the issue ‘accompanying research’ a central theme for the project itself. Yet, alongside its main activities the project participated in some actions to launch European discussion on the theme and to create awareness of different patterns of accompanying research. However, for the initial phase of the project a more general concept of action research provided a sufficient methodological support.

In the subsequent phase of the project evolution the linked agendas started to lead to a certain diversification of initiatives. The initiatives that emphasised introduction of new provisions for basic education of new VET professionals (and creation of institutional preconditions for advanced research culture) started to gear towards exchange and planning measures. Respectively, initiatives that emphasised upgrading of models for continuing training for VET professionals as vehicles for developing ‘communities of practice’ started to look for new modes of project work (and for means to support professionalisation).

In this context it appears that the potentials of accompanying research are to be rediscovered in the further development of the initiatives that are being developed as follow-up measures:

Within the initiatives that are oriented towards institutional consolidation there is a need to reflect on the role of accompanying research as a contribution to the education of the new VET professionals and as an element of the related research culture.

Within the initiatives that focus primarily on the development of ‘communities of practice’ there is a need to analyse how continuing training programmes (for VET professionals) could provide opportunities for research-based accompaniment of pedagogic and curricular innovations ‘in the field’.

Concerning Methodological Approximation of Accompanying Research

A particular example of methodological approximation of accompanying research in the work of Europrof is the development of the common core principles ("cornerstones") concerning the conceptual foundations of the education for new VET professionals. This process could have become a mere programmatic manifestation of a school of thought. However, the processing of the ‘cornerstone’ document also included a process of ‘triangulation’ during which the project reworked the perspective of one leading model (and related transitional models) towards a more pluralistic view on professionalisation of VET professionals (and on the role of alternative education and training provisions).

Concerning the Heritage of the Project Environment

Europrof created a project environment that consisted of linked initiatives that continue the work of the common root project. However, it is worthwhile to note the more general importance of the complementary agendas of Europrof:

institutional consolidation of education of VET professionals (and of related research);

support for the generation of ‘communities of practice’ via different research- and training-related models for continuing professional development.

It appears that these two agendas cannot be developed further as an exclusive continuation of the Europrof heritage. Instead, there is a need to launch new themes with which the work along the two agendas can be promoted to a new phase. For this new phase Europrof can transfer the current knowledge concerning possibilities to promote institutional consolidation and concerning possibilities to link particular initiatives to the development of ‘communities of practice’.

The Role of Accompanying Research for Knowledge Accumulation Within New European ‘Project Environments’

On the basis of given examples it is possible to draw some conclusions for uses of accompanying research or - to be more precise: accompanying research methodologies - in the context of European cooperation projects. As has already been indicated, it is not realistic that utilisation of accompanying research methodologies at European level could follow the same pattern as has been at the national level. It is difficult to create a setting in which open, dynamic experimental situations (at the national level) could be equipped with a genuinely transnational accompanying research project. Therefore, there is a need to develop a methodological awareness of alternative uses of accompanying research methodologies at the European level. In this respect some of the project examples that have been analysed above can provide some insights.

At this phase of reflection it is not possible to introduce well-defined `rules` or `methodological standards` for utilisation of accompanying research methodologies at the European level. However, it is possible to sketch some heuristic points of orientation which make the utilisation or approximation of accompanying research methodologies transparent in the planning of future projects:

Making Explicit Use of Different Patterns of Accompanying Research or Similar Contexts for Research and Development Activities (at the National Level)

The first point is to pay more explicit attention on the possibilities to build European cooperation upon national research contexts that represent some form of research-based accompaniment of VET development. This can refer to

policy- or programme-related accompaniment (of implementation and transfer-promoting measures);

project-related accompaniment (of particular pilot projects or similar initiatives);

process-related accompaniment of continuing professional development of VET professionals (and possible supporting education and training measures).

Also, the European projects can consider whether this kind of projects or initiatives can be used as

national contributions to the European project (without necessarily being matched to similar projects in other participating countries);

basic models for the shaping of the framework for the European project itself;

vehicles for dissemination or transfer-promoting measures that are to be built upon the European project.

Paying Explicit Attention on the Potentials of Accompanying Research Methodologies and on Developing European Knowledge-Sharing in This Respect

The second point is to focus more explicitly on different aspects of accompanying research methodologies (mediating role between different poles, combination of consultative and evaluative functions, combination of scientific reporting and support for development initiatives, triangulation). In this respect there is a need to development a common awareness of different preconditions for acceptability and effective use of such methodologies in diverse cultures. Moreover, there is a need to develop a common understanding on the possibilities to

approximate such methodologies without making explicit reference to the concept;

create awareness of such methodologies and to examine the possibilities for using such methodologies in the context of transfer-promoting measures;

make explicit use of such methodologies and to contribute to the development of the methodologies at European and national level.

Transforming Hitherto Developed Tools and Instruments for European Projects Into Tools and Instruments for Accompanying Research

This point refers to the fact that many of the results of European cooperation projects are mapping tools and comparative pictures of different European approaches which can be used as sources and contributions to mutual learning. However, there is a lack of reflection procedures and criteria that would support the actual processes of mutual learning. In this respect the hitherto developed tools, instruments and patterns have to be transformed into tools that explicitly support reflection on complementarity, compatibility and transferability of certain new elements and on the adjustability of diverse national VET contexts.

In this respect it is particularly important to pay attention to the following aspects:

clustering of different VET cultures according to fundamental systemic, institutional and cultural characteristics and taking respective cultural settings into account;

patterns of organising dialogue within such cultural clusters (closely matching phenomena and approaches) and between them (learning from different cultures);

identification of vehicular designs at the level of pedagogic development and curriculum redesign that have a particular bridging potential.

Cross-Fertilisation of Closely Related European Projects and `Project Environments` and Utilisation of Accompanying Research Methodologies in This Respect

As has been indicated, it is difficult to develop European project in such a way that they could focus policy-developments, particular pilot projects and initiatives to support VET professionals with an integrated approach. Moreover, it has been indicated that it is difficult to develop working concepts that would make use of accompanying research methodologies from the initial start of the European cooperation. In this respect it is only realistic that `first generation projects` focus only on some of the said aspects and make only approximative use of accompanying research methodologies.

Taking this into account it is necessary to pay attention on the possibilities to launch new projects that take the cross-fertilisation of the themes and approaches of previous projects (or `project environments`) as their starting point. In such contexts there are different possibilities to make use of accompanying research methodologies, such as:

Developing projects that focus on issues that are located in the `middlefield` between previous projects and require a deeper elaboration of the outcomes of the `first generation projects`; (An example of such could be a re-examination of the theme `integrated learning` on the basis of the projects Post-16 Strategies and Intequal.)

Transforming outcomes of previous projects into tools for accompaniment and triangulation; (E.g. the framework for clustering `strategies` and the related process of collaborative writing of the Post-16 Strategies could be developed in such a way.)

Transforming `working concepts` of previous European projects into vehicles for promoting knowledge transfer from other projects (E.g. the Europrof ideas on continuing professional development of VET professionals can provide a basis for transfer-promoting activities that draw on other European projects, such as the network on "Work process knowledge").

This document was added to the Education-line database 23 September 1999